Daily Archive: January 11, 2013

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On This Day In History January 11

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 11 is the 11th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 354 days remaining until the end of the year (355 in leap years).

On January 11, 1908, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt declares the massive Grand Canyon in northwestern Arizona a national monument.

Though Native Americans lived in the area as early as the 13th century, the first European sighting of the canyon wasn’t until 1540, by members of an expedition headed by the Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. Because of its remote and inaccessible location, several centuries passed before North American settlers really explored the canyon. In 1869, geologist John Wesley Powell led a group of 10 men in the first difficult journey down the rapids of the Colorado River and along the length of the 277-mile gorge in four rowboats.

By the end of the 19th century, the Grand Canyon was attracting thousands of tourists each year. One famous visitor was President Theodore Roosevelt, a New Yorker with a particular affection for the American West. After becoming president in 1901 after the assassination of President William McKinley, Roosevelt made environmental conservation a major part of his presidency. After establishing the National Wildlife Refuge to protect the country’s animals, fish and birds, Roosevelt turned his attention to federal regulation of public lands. Though a region could be given national park status–indicating that all private development on that land was illegal–only by an act of Congress, Roosevelt cut down on red tape by beginning a new presidential practice of granting a similar “national monument” designation to some of the West’s greatest treasures.

Grand Canyon National Park became a national park in 1919. So famous is this landmark to modern Americans that it seems surprising that it took more than thirty years for it to become a national park. President Theodore Roosevelt visited the rim in 1903 and exclaimed: “The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison–beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world …. Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”

Despite Roosevelt’s enthusiasm and his strong interest in preserving land for public use, the Grand Canyon was not immediately designated as a national park. The first bill to create Grand Canyon National Park had been introduced in 1882 and again in 1883 and 1886 by Senator Benjamin Harrison. As President, Harrison established the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve in 1893. Theodore Roosevelt created the Grand Canyon Game Preserve by proclamation in 1906 and Grand Canyon National Monument in 1908. Senate bills to establish a national park were introduced and defeated in 1910 and 1911; the Grand Canyon National Park Act was finally signed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. The National Park Service, which had been established in 1916, assumed administration of the park.

The creation of the park was an early success of the environmental conservation movement; its National Park status may have helped thwart proposals to dam the Colorado River within its boundaries. (Lack of this fame may have enabled Glen Canyon Dam to be built upriver, flooding Glen Canyon and creating Lake Powell.) In 1975, the former Marble Canyon National Monument, which followed the Colorado River northeast from the Grand Canyon to Lee’s Ferry, was made part of Grand Canyon National Park. In 1979, UNESCO declared it as a World Heritage Site.

The Grand Canyon itself, including its extensive system of tributary canyons, is valued for the combination of large size, depth, and the exposed layering of colorful rocks dating back to Precambrian times. It was created through the incision of the Colorado River and its tributaries after the Colorado Plateau was uplifted and the Colorado River system developed along its present path.

While You Weren’t Looking the Deficit Problem Mostly Gone

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

New York Times economics columnist, Prof. Paul Krugman posted a graph from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in a post to his blog indicating the deficit problem has mostly been solved:

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a graph:

CBPP Deficit Chart


Click on image to enlarge

The vertical axis measures the projected ratio of federal debt to GDP. The blue line at the top represents the projected path of that ratio as of early 2011 – that is, before recent agreements on spending cuts and tax increases. This projection showed a rising path for debt as far as the eye could see.

And just about all budget discussion in Washington and the news media is laid out as if that were still the case. But a lot has happened since then. The orange line shows the effects of those spending cuts and tax hikes: As long as the economy recovers, which is an assumption built into all these projections, the debt ratio will more or less stabilize soon.

Prof. Krugman noted that the CBPP advocates for another $1.4 trillion in revenue or spending cuts over the next decade. While there are still problems the debt/deficit is not as bad as is being presented by politicians and the traditional media. So while we everyone was loosing sleep about falling off cliffs, the cliff was a bad dream. Now the government and the media need to wake up and start talking about jobs.

Hot, Hot, Hot

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has reported that 2012 was the warmest year on record since it started keeping records in 1895, eclipsing 1998 by 1ºF.

The 1°F difference from 1998 is an unusually large margin, considering that annual temperature records are typically broken by just tenths of a degree Fahrenheit. In fact, the entire range between the coldest year on record, which occurred in 1917, and the previous record warm year of 1998 was just 4.2°F.

The year consisted of the fourth-warmest winter, the warmest spring, second-warmest summer, and a warmer-than-average fall. With an average temperature that was 3.6°F above average, July became the hottest month ever recorded in the contiguous U.S. The average springtime temperature in the lower 48 was so far above the 1901-2000 average – 5.2°F, to be exact – that the country set a record for the largest temperature departure for any season on record. [..]

With 34,008 daily high temperature records set or tied the year compared to just 6,664 daily record lows – a ratio of about five high temperature records for every one low temperature record – 2012 was no ordinary weather year in the U.S. It wasn’t just the high temperatures that set records, though. Overnight low temperatures were also extremely warm, and in a few cases the overnight low was so warm that it set a high temperature record, a rare feat. [..]

Not alarmed yet? Australia is not only experiencing its hottest Summer but its also on fire.

Australia Climate Change? New Colors Added To Forecast Maps To Track Potential Record Heat

Austrlia Temperature Map

Click on image to enlarge

Right now, things are pretty hot in Australia. So hot, in fact, that meteorologists Down Under have added new, never-before-used colors to temperature maps in anticipation of record-breaking heat.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology amended its interactive weather chart Tuesday, adding the colors deep purple and pink to indicate a temperature range of up to 54 degrees Celsius, or 129.2 degrees Fahrenheit. The previous range had capped at 50 Celsius, or 122 degrees Fahrenheit.

The change was based on one weather prediction model that forecasts temperatures to climb above 50 Celsius early next week.

The all-time hottest temperature recorded in Australia was 50.7 Celsius on Jan. 2, 1960 at Oodnadatta Airport in South Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

According to the current model, the forecast for next Monday will bring a “Tasmania-sized” area of heat in excess of 50 degrees to South Australia.

50ºC is 122ºF. That’s hot. Too hot.

Australian heatwave puts south-east on alert as wildfires burn out of control

by Alison Rourke, The Gusardian

Fire service issues ‘catastrophic’ warnings in New South Wales with temperatures expected to breach 45C in coming days

A record-breaking heatwave and high winds across south-eastern Australia have produced some of the worst fire conditions seen in the country, with blazes destroying thousands of hectares of land (video) and threatening properties, but – so far – sparing lives.

Emergency teams fought more than 130 fires across New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, on Tuesday, with at least 40 burning out of control. Fires also continued to burn in Tasmania, after blazes at the weekend destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of land and dozens of properties. [..]

The NSW rural fire service issued “catastrophic” fire warnings for four areas in the state – the most severe fire warning level.

“The word catastrophic is being used for good reason,” the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, said on morning television. “So it is very important that people keep themselves safe, that they listen to local authorities and local warnings. This is a very dangerous day.”

Alarmed after the NOAA report, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a new climate bill.

Sanders announced the bill a day after federal officials reported that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the lower 48 states, smashing the record set in 1998 by a full degree Fahrenheit.

The bill from Sanders would create a “transparent fee on greenhouse gas emissions from the biggest polluters,” his office said in a brief summary.

“After the hottest year on record and extreme weather disturbances such as Hurricane Sandy, we must take strong action to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and move toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy,” said Sanders, a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “I intend to introduce legislation in the Senate to do just that.” [..]

Environmentalists are pressing President Obama to take tougher steps using his administrative powers, including establishment of first-time carbon emissions standards for existing power plants.

Sanders’ plan also aims to boost green energy development and nix tax incentives for oil companies.

Not just the US but countries around the world need to take action to curb carbon emissions. The Unites States should be taking the lead and setting the example.

John Brennan, Torture Advocate, Nominated to Head CIA

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

While the traditional MSM has been kvetching over the selection of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, President Barack Obama another far more controversial nomination. True to form of favoring George W. Bush’s war criminals, the president nominated his counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan to head the CIA. Brennan, who endorsed Bush’s torture program and illegal surveillance, has also been completely in charge of the president’s drone and targeted assassination programs. It was because of that and his approval of NSA illegal wire taping and the immunization of the telecommunication companies that Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA in 2009 was withdrawn by the fledgeling Obama administration. How soon, not just the media, so-called progressives have forgotten its outrage over the criminality of the Bush/Cheney regime.

John Brennan’s extremism and dishonesty rewarded with CIA Director nomination

by Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian

Obama’s top terrorism adviser goes from unconfirmable in 2008 to uncontroversial in 2013, reflecting the Obama legacy

Prior to President Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, a controversy erupted over reports that he intended to appoint John Brennan as CIA director. That controversy, in which I participated, centered around the fact that Brennan, as a Bush-era CIA official, had expressly endorsed Bush’s programs of torture (other than waterboarding) and rendition and also was a vocal advocate of immunizing lawbreaking telecoms for their role in the illegal Bush NSA eavesdropping program. As a result, Brennan withdrew his name from consideration, issuing a bitter letter blaming “strong criticism in some quarters prompted by (his) previous service with the” CIA.

This “victory” of forcing Brennan’s withdrawal proved somewhat Pyrrhic, as Obama then appointed him as his top counter-terrorism adviser, where he exerted at least as much influence as he would have had as CIA Director, if not more. In that position, Brennan last year got caught outright lying when he claimed Obama’s drone program caused no civilian deaths in Pakistan over the prior year. He also spouted complete though highly influential falsehoods to the world in the immediate aftermath of the Osama bin Laden killing, including claiming that bin Laden “engaged in a firefight” with Navy SEALS and had “used his wife as a human shield”. Brennan has also been in charge of many of Obama’s most controversial and radical policies, including “signature strikes” in Yemen – targeting people without even knowing who they are – and generally seizing the power to determine who will be marked for execution without any due process, oversight or transparency. {..}

It is a perfect illustration of the Obama legacy that a person who was untouchable as CIA chief in 2008 because of his support for Bush’s most radical policies is not only Obama’s choice for the same position now, but will encounter very little resistance. Within this change one finds one of the most significant aspects of the Obama presidency: his conversion of what were once highly contentious right-wing policies into harmonious dogma of the DC bipartisan consensus. Then again, given how the CIA operates, one could fairly argue that Brennan’s eagerness to deceive and his long record of supporting radical and unaccountable powers make him the perfect person to run that agency. It seems clear that this is Obama’s calculus.

The Seduction of John Brennan’s “Moral Rectitude”

by Marcy Wheeler, emptywheel

FWIW, having John Brennan in a position where he will be subject to Congressional oversight – rather than the oversight-free and more expansive position he’s in now – might not be an entirely bad thing. And after the DiFi-Jose Rodriguez smackdown, I’m not sad to see (CIA Acting Director Michael) Morell get passed over, because I don’t think he has sufficient independence from people like Rodriguez. {..}

So I can’t help but think the people hailing his “moral rectitude” have been seduced by an old spook. Because every story that claims Brennan has some kind of higher ethics or a plan to put order to our out-of-control CT programs is either followed-or has the proof within itself-that the moral rectitude is the PR, whereas the embrace of unchecked power seems to be backed by his actions.

This statement from the ACLU on Brennan’s nomination, expressed there concerns:

WASHINGTON – President Obama this afternoon nominated his counterterrorism advisor John Brennan to become the next director of the CIA. Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, had the following concerns with the president’s choice to fill this critical national security post.

Despite media reports that Brennan continually raised civil liberties concerns within the White House, noted Murphy, the Senate should not move forward with his nomination until it assesses the legality of his actions in past leadership positions in the CIA during the early years of the George W. Bush administration and in his current role in the ongoing targeted killing program. [..]

“The Senate should not move forward with his nomination until all senators can assess the role of the CIA-and any role by Brennan himself-in torture, abuse, secret prisons, and extraordinary rendition during his past tenure at the CIA, as well as can review the legal authorities for the targeted killing program that he has overseen in his current position,” Murphy said. “This nomination is too important to proceed without the Senate first knowing what happened during Brennan’s tenures at the CIA and the White House, and whether all of his conduct was within the law. ”

Murphy also added that a recent Senate Intelligence Committee report could be used to determine the extent of Brennan’s role in these programs.

“To the extent these questions can be answered by the Intelligence Committee’s still-undisclosed report on the CIA’s role in torture, the Senate should use the report to determine what role Brennan had and whether his conduct was consistent with both the law and American values,” Murphy said.

Murphy remarked that the CIA can take two actions now to help restore the rule of law.

“The Senate should not move forward with the nomination of John Brennan until it is clear that he is committed to making sure that the CIA will end its targeted killing program, and agree to work with the Senate Intelligence Committee on the declassification review and disclosure of the committee’s report on the CIA’s past role in torture and abuse,” she said. “These steps would help assure all Americans that the past wrongs of the CIA have ended, and won’t be brought back.”

Brennan will most likely be confirmed by the Senate with far less “fireworks” than the Hagel nomination. I have no doubt that it will be done under the cloak of secrecy, invoking “national security”, aka, covering war crimes and the perpetrators.  

The Hagel Haggle

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Chuck HagelThe controversy over President Barack Obama’s nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense are, as Republicans say, he is anti-military, anti-Israel and soft on Iran. The gay Log Cabin Republicans, and a few others from the left, object because of his stand against the 1998 appointment of James Hormel as Ambassador to Luxembourg, who is openly gay. The problem on the left is he’s another Republican. Most of these objections won’t prevent Sen. Hagel from being confirmed.

At The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald discusses the concerns of the GLBT community and the objections of the left in his article:

When it comes to LGBT equality, 1998 is a different universe. Virtually no prominent Democrats (let alone Republicans) supported marriage equality back then, or even equal rights for LGBT citizens. In fact, Hagel’s comment came only two years after the overwhelming majority of Democratic Senators voted in favor of the truly odious and discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act – including Joe Biden, Patty Murray, Pat Leahy and Paul Wellstone – which was then signed into law by Bill Clinton. That law not only defined marriage as between a man and a woman, but barred the federal government from issuing any spousal benefits – immigration, tax, death benefits – to same-sex couples. If you’re going to judge politicians by how they felt about LGBT issues 15 years ago, be prepared to scorn almost every national Democratic Party hero you have as a bigot. [..]

So yes: like virtually every prominent politician in both parties, Chuck Hagel had primitive and ugly views on gay issues back in 1998. But shouldn’t the question be: does he still hold these views or, like huge numbers of Americans, have his viewed evolved since then? Hagel has apologized for what he said, an apology which Hormel accepted, graciously noting: “I can’t remember a time when a potential presidential nominee apologized for anything . . . .Since 1998, fourteen years have passed, and public attitudes have shifted–perhaps Senator Hagel has progressed with the times, too.” Moreover, Hagel last week also vowed that he is “fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.” [..]

Then there’s the issue of Hagel’s party affiliation. The perception that Republicans are more trustworthy than Democrats on military issues – and that Democratic presidents thus had to rely on Republicans to run the Pentagon – was indeed both pervasive and baseless. But that, too, has changed: the outgoing Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, is as loyal and partisan a Democrat as it gets, and nobody objected to his selection.

But much more importantly: when it comes to issues such as war, militarism, defense spending and Middle East policy, isn’t substance much more significant than whether someone has an “R” or “D” after their name? As Obama himself proves – and as Biden and Clinton before him proved – the fact that someone has a “D” after their name is hardly a guarantor that they will oppose policies of aggression and militarism. Indeed, as Clemons said Friday night on MSNBC, most Democrats in the Pentagon are so afraid of being cast as “soft on defense” that they hug policies of militarism far more eagerly and unquestioningly than Chuck Hagel ever would. Is partisan identity so all-consuming that it completely trumps substance, so that a hawkish Democrat is preferable to a war-skeptic Republican?

Just as a reminder, although Sen. Hagel objected to the authorization to invade Iraq in 2002, he still voted for it. So have the feral children of the right turned on him? It would seem that Sen. Hagel did the unthinkable, he told he truth about the real reason for the invasion, oil. He then committed a second “cardinal sin” when he voted for withdrawal.

Then according to the neocon’s he is soft on Iran and not sufficiently pro-Israel and has even been called antisemitic. Those objections are based on Sen. Hagel’s refusal to sign onto a number of AIPAC’s policy pronouncements and objections to military intervention with Iran over a non-existant nuclear weapons program.  Since most of those allegations are exaggerated or just false, the opposition is losing “steam” according to Josh Marshall at TPM:

Nominations lose steam or gain steam. Campaigns against nominations lose steam or gain steam. And at the moment, the campaign against Chuck Hagel’s nomination is losing steam. AIPAC and the ADL have both signaled they do not plan to make a fight of it. Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister is giving Hagel the thumbs up. Now even the Washington Post editorial page has signaled it’s backing off its opposition.

As I noted on Sunday, the prospect of a five seat Democratic majority denying a reelected President the nomination of a former Senator who is blandly unobjectionable anywhere outside the hothouse of DC was always quite unlikely. And these tells are consequential precisely because they signal that the parties in question don’t think it’s a winnable fight.

This is all a tempest in a teapot and ridiculous on its face just as the complaints that Pres. Obama isn’t sufficiently bipartisan. Sen. Hagel is just another in a long succession of right of center nominees, appointments and hold overs from the Bush administration that have been part of Pres. Obama’s neoliberal agenda.  

The Dark Side of Hero Hagel

My new Special Forces friend had a problem.  The VA said the wars he fought in never happened.  His other Special Forces Indian buddies were growing marijuana he said and there would be a raid next week but not where the Special Forces that never fought wars were.  Even the drug warriors knew better than to take them on outside of spraying them from the air.

It was much the same with a childhood friend of my son.  The pains were all in his head as were his wars.  That he spent months in a wheelchair with doctors declaring he would never walk again was probably his own damn fault as was the conviction of convenience that cost him his freedom and loss of all pay for doing some real hurt to a South Korean officer who had put a pistol to his ear to enforce an illegal order.  The penalties in that case were shortly overturned and pay and rank were all restored after the diplomatic problem blew over but not before his lovely family declared they knew he was no good and would never amount to anything.  I finally understood the chip on Steve’s shoulder when he was young.

I didn’t really fight in one of those non-wars but I was blown up on a bus.  One buddy somehow made it to the Wall in D.C. though he was another peacetime veteran of a war that wasn’t happening then.  When I got out of the non-war, Jack F. Kennedy was promising a real non-war with assassination squads which would really fix those dang commies if he got elected. JFK also promised to close that horrid Eisenhower missile gap that was pure imagination.  I foolishly told a very large bar fighter that his hero JFK would get us deeper into a war that we would lose.  The sucker punch I never saw coming did more damage than the Viet Cong bomb had.

Some of us idiots never learn.

Oh yeah, Hagel.  At least he was in a recognized war and no doubt he was a hero.  And he has shown some ability to learn despite being a Republican.

The sickening effort to defame Chuck Hagel as anti-Semitic and anti-Israel has been comprehensively debunked, in detail, while its neoconservative authors – notably the convicted liar Eliot Abrams – have once more disgraced themselves…

http://www.nationalmemo.com/ha…

Ridiculous.  No neocon was ever even embarrassed, let alone disgraced, for being shown to be an unconscionable liar.  That is the definition of neocon.

I like Vietnam vets, official or non-official, because [blush] I am one.  And Hagel has some admirable qualities, like that strange rudimentary ability to learn despite being a Republican.  And maybe particularly because he is no general.

But his statements as a right-to-lifer are a match for those of Akins and Mourdock.  I am delighted to learn Rachel Maddow has caught on.  Bright lady though a bit late on that.

Do we really need such a hero as Defense Secretary?  Will women now love him, so to speak?

Beats me.

Best,  Terry

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